Whoever said that print is going the way of dinosaurs will probably have to eat their words now. Come November, homegrown independent bookstore BooksActually will celebrate 10 years of fighting for the right for local writers to be read and heard, for their right to publish, and to ensure that books will always remain a part of our lives. Christ Ong, Programme Manager at The Substation, speaks with founder Kenny Leck and the people behind BooksActually about their upcoming commemorative exhibition 10 Years of BooksActually, their past highlights, and future aspirations.
Chris Ong: Congratulations on your 10th year anniversary, and on having an exhibition to celebrate and commemorate this significant milestone! What can we look forward to seeing in this exhibition?
BooksActually: In this exhibition, we will aim to recreate the past five locations of BooksActually: Yong Siak Street (current), Club Street, Ann Siang Hill, Telok Ayer Street, and even before we had a brick-and-mortar, the NUS AS6 Walkway. We are also taking this opportunity to exhibit all the old books and memorabilia collected in the last decade and even have some of them on sale. As we are currently aiming to buy a permanent home for the bookstore, we will be selling original artworks and merchandise to raise the money.
Chris Ong: It must have been a journey of trials and tribulations for yourself and your team in the past 10 years. Can you recount some of your most memorable moments running the bookstore?
Kenny Leck: Rescuing three cats, setting up our publishing arm Math Paper Press, the endless stream of books we got to read, the many friends that we have made over the past decade, and meeting my future wife.
Chris Ong: After this 10-year milestone, what are your future plans and goals for the next 10, 20, or dare we say, 50 years? And what are your aspirations for, and predictions about the literary scene here in Singapore?
BooksActually: BooksActually was built in a competitive city obsessed with winning, a society that views ambition as a ladder one must climb to reach monetary success. A child who has read and loved Philip Pullman, an adolescent who was inspired by the life and work of Nikola Tesla, or someone who has abandoned a career to write full-time, should not be considered eccentrics. For ten years, the bookstore has been striving to convince the nation that inventing your life’s own meaning is allowed, being different does not make you a subversive, and success can come in the form of courage and creativity.
We believe this to be a lifelong struggle, and we will probably never enjoy the fruits of our labour in this lifetime, but as long as it continues to be part of the bigger tapestry, the bookstore will keep at it for as long as it takes.
Exhibition: 10 Years of BooksActually
Dates: 18 – 21 November 2015
Opening: Wednesday, 18 November, at 7.30pm
Venue: The Substation Gallery, 45 Armenian Street, Singapore 179936
Hours: 12noon – 8pm daily, closed on public holidays. Free admission.